The past week has been one of lows and highs. On Wednesday, with Chair of Governors, David Cardle, I attended the funeral of fellow ISA Head, David Bown. 

David was Head at St Nicholas School, Harlow and last year was part of the governing board at Stoke, where he offered invaluable advice on the academic side of school life. He was tragically killed during the February half term. I felt a particular empathy with his family and school. David had been a friend at the ISA Heads’ meetings and of course, Stoke too lost John Gibson, whilst he was serving as Head, not so many years ago.

The church in Bishop’s Stortford was packed with family, colleagues, parents of the school and friends. It was a moving service and it was particularly touching to hear verses from Shakespeare’s Cybeline: 

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun

Nor the furious winter’s rages;

Thou thy worldly task hast done,

Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages:

Golden lads and girls all must,

As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

What also came across was of a life well lived and of a family man and teacher well loved. David was an inspiration to his students and his colleagues and he will be missed.

He would however, want us all to celebrate life and the opportunities we have. There could not have been a more joyful and happier contrast than the performances of Grease at the Haverhill Arts Centre on Thursday and Friday.

Our own golden lads and lasses brought a huge amount of joy, happiness and entertainment to packed houses of parents, staff and the general public.

I am sure we have said this many times before but it is truly astonishing how much talent there is at Stoke. But perhaps this is true of all schools? Perhaps the difference is that at Stoke many more are prepared to brave the stage and achieve something they never thought they could do.

Amazingly, some of our lead performers had never been on stage before. Their singing, choreography and acting were, nevertheless, outstanding.

Behind the scenes the stage crew and technical teams did fantastic work too and the music group, consisting of students and staff, brought a live performance to life.

There were many supporters both technically and financially and I would like to thank them all again. Most of all I would like to thank the staff at the centre of the production: Miss Tudge, Mrs Peacock and Miss Davey. As a team they helped the students achieve something really special and gave them a confidence they will carry forward with them for the rest of their lives.